“Advantaging Authoritarianism: the U.S. Electoral System”

Protect Democracy just published this sobering report on antidemocratic extremism in the American political system.

America’s authoritarian faction is both more extreme and more successful than similar movements in other advanced democracies. Yet despite its ascendency, this faction does not enjoy broad-based support. So what explains its outsized success?

In Advantaging Authoritarianism, Protect Democracy examines the links between escalating antidemocratic extremism and the U.S. electoral system: “one uniquely translating limited factional support into outsized political influence.” In particular, it interrogates how specific features of the U.S. electoral system may be structurally favoring political extremism, such as by exaggerating one party’s electoral wins over the other, diluting minority voting power, weakening competition between the major parties, preventing an electorally viable new center-right party, and rewarding extreme factions at the ballot box, among other effects.

As political scientist Robert Dahl once observed, the U.S. system, “natural as it may seem to us, is of a species rare to the vanishing point among the advanced democracies.” Advantaging Authoritarianism examines its anomalous features; the ways in which those features are aggravating extremism; and how various reforms could help to turn the tide. While the authoritarian threat confronting the U.S. is a near-term crisis, successfully confronting it will also require long-term, structural solutions.

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